CALVIN’S AMERICAN EDGE

CALVIN KLEIN: Edge is one of the most bandied-about words in fashion. And where there’s an edge, chances are Calvin Klein will be there pushing it. In his zest to test, to challenge, to be noticed, Klein is relentless. His daring seems to know no limits, on the runway or in his advertising, even — perhaps especially — if he expects to raise more than a few eyebrows along the way.
This audacity is among the reasons Klein is so admired, envied and dissed — and why, year after year, he remains one of the most fascinating people in the business.
The knockout collection he showed for spring is a perfect example. True, some of these clothes looked derivative, especially of Helmut Lang. Yet they took on such attitude, such security, such style, they became important. It was the kind of collection that got those editorial juices flowing, but puzzled some retailers. “Try selling this in Chicago,” one said. But then, retailers were just as skeptical a few years ago, when Klein built an entire collection around tank and slip dresses. Now, they’re staples at virtually every level of the market.
Nobody else in New York delivers the kind of currency Klein has mastered: a surface cool that doesn’t quite mask an agitated urge to move on. Despite a multitude of slanted hems, Calvin is not into bygone romance, nor is he into Eighties Tough Chic. He would rather stake his claim on today; better yet, tomorrow.
Klein may have shrugged off the Biennale in Florence as a pretentious marriage of art and fashion, but he said in his program notes that his inspirations were Ellsworth Kelly and Jasper Johns.
Everything in this collection was cut reed thin — too thin for some retailers. The key themes were the asymmetric dresses, which fell not in fluttery, wispy tails, but in clean, geometric points, and the layering of color on color, one sheer skinny T or dress over another. There was also some geometry going on in Klein’s “crayon prints” — haphazard streaks of color on silk georgette — that looked great in a season of florals. The Ts were worn two ways: with stretch poplin pants cut with only a bit more slack than leggings, or with slim, austere suits and the kind of surprisingly sensible shoes that haven’t hit the runway in a while. There were terrific coats and sparse suits, some in stretch wool, mohair and silk and a glorious silk “paper taffeta.”
Klein’s presentation was repetitive, but it never got dull, simply because the clothes were so beautiful. And that’s the difference between pushing the edge and falling off.

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